“This one is for T-Boz, Left Eye, & Chili, also known as TLC. I mean when they hit the scene, 3 women wearing baggy shirts, jeans and overalls, with condoms pinned to their clothes, they were not only an overnight pop success, but a sharp distinct break from the R&B Grown & Sexy look of artists like Anita Baker and Patti Labelle. These girls gave you butch–in their dress and their attitude! Also, T-Boz–who was featured as the lead on most of their singles–has a very distinct low singing voice that many people read as butch…..

“I always read songs that are about being an ‘individual’ and ‘doing what you wanna do’ as implicitly about queerness–sexual liberation at the least. Anyhoo, TLC has influenced Baby Dykes all over this country. When I wander the West Village, and see the butch girls in fitteds, baggy jeans and hoodies, I think of TLC! Regardless of their own sexual orientations, TLC’s influence on Black Butch aesthetic is undeniable…”

Kenyon Farrow from “TLC: So Black & So Gay!” on TLC’s queer aesthetic

Farrow’s piece came to my attention through Romantic Friendship’s excellent podcast, “What About Your Friends? R&B and Hip Hop Girl Groups From the 90s”. I had completely forgotten how many of these groups were focused on safe sex and AIDS in particular. TLC’s condom-laced costumes were a significant part of that. Glad for the reminder! Strange how open and revolutionary the discussions of sex, safety, and pleasure were then compared to now.


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